At just 19 years old, soft-spoken Canadian singer Taylor Janzen tackles big emotions in her songwriting, including navigating her own experiences with anxiety and depression. Through her lyrics, Janzen hopes listeners can see their own feelings reflected and reduce the stigma toward mental health.
She recently dropped her sophomore EP, Shouting Matches, which follows up her co-produced debut EP Interpersonal. When Audiofemme caught up with her after a passionate Bunbury Music Festival performance, the self-named “sad song enthusiast” opened up about using music to cope with mental health, her love for Dennis Quaid, and her latest project.
AF: Your sophomore EP Shouting Matches dropped last month, can you tell me a little bit about it?
TJ: Well, it’s my first release with a full band, which is huge for me because it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve never had the resources to do that. I feel like I’m so picky that if I wanted to do a full band thing, I’d have to do it right, and I got the opportunity to do that and it has been such a cool experience to have the band with me. I like the different textures of having the full band and the EP itself is very personal, lyrically and emotionally charged. I like having a band to support that.
AF: Can you tell me where your inspiration came for the project lyrically?
TJ: All of the songs at some point talk about conflict, whether it’s conflict with yourself or other people or just in general. That’s a huge part of the EP and lyrically I get ideas really randomly. So, for instance, “Dennis Quaid” is a song that I wrote right as I was about to graduate high school, so it was a while ago, and I was super anxious all the time. Like, all the time, and I was like, I just need to yell. So I took my acoustic guitar and went into my basement and just yelled over my guitar and the melody of the chorus just kind of came out my yelling. So that song was designed just for me to be able to yell in the middle of my anxiousness.
AF: Why is addressing mental health in your music important to you?
TJ: I think it’s important because one of the biggest things for me about depression is that I’m feeling things by myself, but when you hear someone else talking about it, it’s kind of like breaking through a wall in your brain, which is nice. It’s nice to feel things with other people. Personally, for me, I write the songs so that I can express myself and find words for things, so it’s kind of like a therapeutic thing for me. I write things to figure out how I feel about them. And then I put them out so that other people can kind of see themselves in it a bit. It’s less about people looking for me in songs and more about people looking for themselves.
AF: As a Canadian artist performing in the US, what are some differences you’ve noticed in the stigma and access to mental healthcare?
TJ: The Canadian mental health system is still pretty rough. Unfortunately, mental health is still a bit tricky to get into—long wait periods, sometimes can be a little bit expensive, [and] the free ones are not always great.
AF: What’s something you would like somebody who’s never heard your music to know about you?
TJ: Just like a disclaimer, I’m not sad [laughs]. Sometimes people will hear my music and think, “Oh no!” Like my mom listened and thought that and I was like, “I’m fine.” I think a lot of it speaks for itself, so anybody can head over to it without any context. Another thing, the song “Dennis Quaid” is not about Dennis Quaid. It’s about imposter syndrome anxiety, but I couldn’t figure out a name for it, so I just named it after him [laughing].
AF: But you love him right?
TJ: I do love him, a lot!
AF: Any shows or upcoming music we can look forward to?
TJ: I am playing at my hometown festival. I’m from Winnipeg, I’m playing Winnipeg Folk Fest and I’m very excited because I’ve wanted to since I started playing music. That’s been the goal and now I’m on the lineup, so that’s fun. I’m always recording. I’m always kind of thinking of the next thing, so I’m definitely working, but it’s not very far along yet.
AF: So not this year, but maybe next year?
TJ: Yeah. Stay tuned for a music video for the song “Shouting Matches!”